The study was a comparison of bioassay and HPLC analysis of artesunate (ARTS) and dihydroartemisinin (DHA) in plasma. ARTS and DHA in plasma samples from patients treated with ARTS were quantified by HPLC and expressed as DHA. DHA-equivalents in the same plasma samples were measured using a standardised parasite culture technique. DHA concentrations estimated by both methods were highly correlated (bioassay = 0.96 x HPLC + 11.0; r(2) = 0.92). At high concentrations ( > 12 000 nmol/l) bioassay sometimes overestimated DHA. Bioassay of active drug in plasma correlates well with specific chemical analysis by HPLC. ARTS and DHA appear to account for the total antimalarial activity in plasma after ARTS administration. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.